The Balkans are a fascinating region to explore in Europe due to its beauty as well as turbulent history. When we talk about the Balkans area, if you're a history buff like I am, it is hard to ignore the most recent conflict in the region, especially in ex-Yugoslavia countries, throughout the 1990s.
One of the most diverse regions in Europe, there was a price to pay for its diversity that ended with wars, bombings, and genocide. I used to date a Balkan guy in my early 20s, and I remember one thing he said about the region: “Yugoslavia. We're now basically split into seven countries who are similar in one way, but very different in the other ways to the point that we just end up hating each other.”
So in this post, in collaboration with other fellow travel bloggers, we're going to give you a glimpse of each ex-Yugoslavia destination you must visit on your trip to the Balkans. Because despite all the things that occurred in the region in the past, today you can learn a lot from what happened. And more importantly, you can now explore the beauty of each country peacefully.
Traveling to Former Yugoslavia Countries
The Balkans might have had a turbulent history during the 20th century, with the civil wars taking place throughout the region. The name “Yugoslavia,” which means the Land of the South Slavs, was used after World War I when the three countries in the Balkans were formed in 1918.
Despite their dark history, the Balkan Peninsula is now quite popular as a traveling destination due to their natural beauty spread in the seven former Yugoslavia countries. From the stunning views of the Adriatic Sea in Budva, to the appealing mountains to hike in Zlatibor… The Balkans has so much more to offer.
And if you're a history buff like I am, you know there are so many historical sites in the region that are worth visiting in each of the ex-Yugoslavia destinations in the Balkans.
On top of that, traveling through the Balkans is relatively easy as you can easily hop on the bus to your next destination, and there are many cheap flight tickets available throughout the region. If you're feeling adventurous, traveling with an RV can be one way to check all these destinations on your bucket list!
A part of Yugoslavia for the most part of the 20th century, Slovenia was the first country to separate from the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia when they introduced parliamentary democracy in the state government in 1989.
Situated in the northern part of the Balkans, Slovenia has a lot to offer, whether you're planning to have a trip exclusively around the region or create an adventure to travel to the rest of Europe. From the vibrant lifestyle in the capital city, Ljubljana, to enjoying the breathtaking scenery outside the big cities.
So, what are the recommended destinations to visit in Slovenia?
1. Ljubljana, Slovenia
Ljubljana is the capital of Slovenia, located in the western part of the country. It has a laid-back vibe and is perfect to discover on foot during an afternoon in Ljubljana.
The city has many well-preserved buildings from the Baroque, Classical and Jugendstil periods. This makes a city walk a feast for the eyes with all the colorful facades. Tromostovje, a triple bridge, cannot be missed. The bridge is beautifully adorned and a real highlight. Outside the center, the buildings are from a more recent era, namely the Communist period.
Ljubljanski Grad is a large castle from the Middle Ages towering over the city. You can reach the castle by car, foot, and funicular. The funicular is a glass cogwheel that goes up from the city center to the castle, all the while giving splendid views of the city!
Inside the castle, there are 2 restaurants, a virtual castle, a Slovenian Archeological Museum, and a tower that you can climb. Wandering around the courtyard and the grounds of the castle is already wonderful.
Summer is the best time to visit. The temperature is warm (or even hot) and the weather beautiful. There's lots of liveliness and events in the city.
2. Lake Bled, Slovenia
You may have never heard of Bled, but you've probably seen photos of its picturesque lake with the island church. Bled is a small town in northern Slovenia, about 40 minutes or 55 kilometers from the capital of Ljubljana, which makes it easy to get to.
May to September is the best time to come to enjoy the lake and water activities. If you don't have much time, you can book a guided tour from Ljubljana, but Lake Bled is also a great jumping-off point for many adventure activities in the area and for seeing Triglav National Park.
The town of Bled is on the east side of the lake, and most of the attractions are located here. Start with the promenade along the lake and make your way up to Bled Castle.
The castle dates to 1004 and overlooks the lake. There is a working print shop that will help you print out your own souvenir print using a centuries-old technique and a little elbow grease.
After the castle, wander down to sample Bled's unique cream cake at the Park Hotel. Then, walk to the dock to get on a small wooden pletna boat. These are rowed by the guy standing at the back, so expect a leisurely ride and some interesting stories. When you reach the island, climb the steep stairs to the church. Legend has it that the groom has to carry his bride up these 99 stairs and you may see a wedding in progress.
Finally, finish the day off with a sunset swim or paddle board before enjoying dinner and Slovenia's famous plum brandy, slivovitz.
3. Tolmin Gorge, Slovenia
Nestled under the hills in the charming Soča River Walley in northwestern Slovenia, Tolmin Gorge represents the lowest (and probably the most beautiful) entry point to the Triglav National Park in Slovenia.
It is one of the gorgeous natural attractions in the Soča Valley and sometimes overlooked due to the more famous Vintgar Gorge near Lake Bled, making it a perfect destination for those looking for slightly less crowded places.
The Tolmin Gorge consists of two gorges carved by the river Tolminka and Zadlascica, which confluence into one. The river confluence is also one of the five main attractions along the easy circular path that leads through the gorge.
The path will take you through the lush forest, along the riverbeds with crystal clear water of an out-of-this-world aquamarine color, through natural tunnels, to the caves, and over the bridges. The views from the upper bridge are simply incredible!
The best time to visit the Tolmin Gorge is between May and September, and the path is closed from mid-November to March. As for now, it is allowed to swim here (at the confluence), so if you're visiting on a hot summer day, don't forget to bring a swimsuit!
Since the Tolmin Gorge is dog-friendly, this is also a perfect place to visit in Slovenia during summer if you're traveling with your pet.
4. Skocjan Caves, Slovenia
Skocjan Caves in Slovenia are one of the most spectacular caves systems in the world, granted the UNESCO World Heritage Site title in 1986. The place is mostly known for one of the largest underground river canyons in the world (a truly breathtaking place!), but there is more to see and explore in the area.
It is possible to visit the caves, but only on tour. The first part is guided through the most spectacular part underground, it takes around 1,5 hours and you will cover 2,5 km (including 400 stairs).
Along the way, you will see some incredibly beautiful parts of Skocjan Caves, like Murmuring Cave with the underground river Reka, you will also cross the bridge hung 50 meters above the river – in this scenery, it's a rather exciting experience.
Unfortunately, in the guided part of Skocjan Caves, taking pictures is forbidden, but that way, you can fully focus on the place and the surrounding scenery. Once you are done with the underground part of the tour, you can explore the area on your own, there are a few designated paths to take you around.
Don't miss the viewpoint in the upper part, not far from the visitors' center – it will give you a great overview of the area. The caves are open throughout the year but check the current opening time at the official website. The guided tours start every full hour.
You can book the tickets online or buy them in the visitors' center, the price is the same. The place is best reachable by car but you can also arrive by train to nearby Divaca and walk some 4km to the caves.
A country with the longest coastline compared to other ex-Yugoslavia countries, Croatia has gained popularity as a touristic destination in the Balkan in the past few years.
The second country to leave the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia after the referendum held in 1991, the country has developed ever since.
Thanks to Game of Thrones which makes Croatia popular for its scenic pebbled beaches and crystal-clear waters in Dubrovnik, the country has so much more to offer from tasty wine to stunning national parks!
So, what are the best places to explore in Croatia?
5. Istria, Croatia
The region of Istria is situated in the largest peninsula within the Adriatic sea. The peninsula is shared by the two former Yugoslavia countries (Croatia and Slovenia) and Italy, it is a real insider's tip for an unforgettable short vacation and definitely a highlight among the best places to visit in the Balkans.
Here you will experience one of the most beautiful parts of the magnificent Adriatic Sea, and enjoy Croatian vacation flair and hospitality at its best. Clean air, fresh sea breezes, green hills, idyllic bays and picturesque coastal towns will make you want to go on vacation.
A visit to Rovinj is a must on any trip to Istria. Situated on a peninsula, the colorful town houses rise close together up a hill and conjure up a fascinating panorama with the church of St. Euphemia at the top.
Other highlights along the coast are Umag, Porec, Novigrad and don't forget to miss the hinterland with picturesque towns like Motovun and Hum, also known as the smallest town in the world.
The beautiful beaches of the region are probably the reason why so many vacationers come especially in summer. Along the Istrian coast, there is a row of dream beaches. Some of them are still really secluded, which is especially appreciated by those seeking peace and quiet!
Most of the bays are stone beaches, but there are also pebble beaches, where the crystal-clear sea invites you to jump into the cool water.
6. Zagreb, Croatia
Many folks only stop in Zagreb long enough to transit in addition to other destinations in Croatia. However, Zagreb, as the capital of Croatia, has a lot to offer for visitors to the city.
Zagreb has a rich architectural and cultural history. Founded during the Roman empire, it has remained an important settlement and city for centuries. The city also features beautiful 18th and 19th-century Austro-Hungarian architecture.
There's a lot to do in the city, from visiting museums, churches, markets, and even just beautiful squares. Be sure to check out the large Jelacic Square, central to the city's geography and life and regularly bustling with people and activities.
There are also quite a few museums, from the Archeological Museum, the Croatian Museum of Naive Art, and the Museum of Broken Relationships. The latter is one of the more odd and famous ones with well-known traveling exhibits, but originating in Zagreb. There are also quite a few churches to visit such as St. Mark's Church with its distinctive Croatian decoration.
After much of your other exploring, do take the time to enjoy local Balkan food at the many restaurants. A great place to visit is Tkalciceva Street with its many bars, restaurants, and cafes lining the way.
Zagreb, being the center of commerce for Croatia is great to visit year-round, but it really comes to life during the warmer late spring to early fall months. You'll be able to really enjoy the weather and wandering around the city and people-watch during these active months.
7. Plitvice National Park, Croatia
One of the most scenic areas of Croatia, visiting the National Park at Plitvice should be added to your itinerary when you visit the former Yugoslavia country.
A very popular destination, Plitvice National Park is unique as you get to see the amazing waterfalls right up through the boardwalk, passing bridges, streams, ponds and lakes to get closer to the magnificent waterfalls.
A year-round destination, Plitvice National Park is a scenic place that offers some adventurous experiences in its surrounding area. Take a ferry boat ride through the national park with many trails and beautiful scenery around the area.
One of the best times to visit Plitvice National Park is during the fall season when there are less visitors, on top of the color-changing trees which shines the landscape of the national park. You'll find all shades of yellow, orange, red, and brown covering the place in a dazzling display of color and texture that will leave you in awe while visiting Plitvice National Park.
There are many lodgings available in the area, and you can also stop by to eat delicious local specialties in some fantastic local restaurants around Plitvice National Park.
8. Split, Croatia
One of the best places to visit in former Yugoslavia countries is Split, Croatia. Nestled along the Adriatic Sea, Split is known for its beautiful weather, stunning beaches, and incredible history.
Split is a must-visit for several reasons. First, the city is rich in culture and history, with buildings and ruins dating back to ancient times. Split is also brimming with gorgeous scenery, which provides stunning views and a beautiful setting. Moreover, Split offers an endless array of things to do, from museums to beaches to restaurants and more. Last but not least, Split is a convenient base for exploring the surrounding area, including the nearby islands.
The weather in Split is perfect for beachgoers and outdoor enthusiasts alike. The city experiences mild winters and warm summers, making it the perfect place to visit year-round. But, September and October are great months to visit to escape the crowds, and it's still warm enough for a dip in the ocean.
An unmissable thing to do in Split is to visit Diocletian's Palace. It's one of the best-preserved Roman ruins in the world and has been used as a fortress, a palace, and even a town over the years. Today, it's one of Split's most popular tourist attractions.
The Riva, Split's waterfront promenade, is another can't-miss attraction. Stroll along the Riva to take in the stunning views of the sea, and grab a bite to eat at one of the restaurants.
Other beautiful attractions in Split include Fortress Klis, Saint Domnius Bell Tower, Park Suma Marjan, Kasjuni Beach, and Split City Museum.
9. Pula, Croatia
Pula, on Croatia's Adriatic coast, perfectly combines the two best parts of any European getaway: a city with lots of history and a coastal location with plenty of beaches. With so many things to do in Pula and in the surrounding towns, you won't be
The city was once a stronghold of the Roman Empire. And still today, there are many 2000-year-old ruins around the city. Including the astonishingly well-preserved amphitheater that is almost entirely intact! But this Italian influence doesn't stop at the architecture, pizza is as native to Pula as it is to most Italian cities. No trip to the city is complete without a visit to a pizzeria (and an ice cream shop too, because why not!).
To escape the city, you have two choices. You can either head to one of the many beaches around Pula. With crystal clear water, calm water and perfect west-looking locations for sunset, you can't go wrong really. The only problem you'll have is choosing which one to head to first!
The second option is to head slightly inland to the vineyards and wineries. Croatia produces a lot of very good wine each year. However, as almost all of it is consumed within the country, it's not well-known internationally. There are plenty of wineries offering tastings both in and around the city as well as further out into the countryside.
To enjoy everything Pula has to offer, the best time to visit is in the summer months. August is the hottest and driest month, but you'll still have mild weather between late May and early October. But, in all honestly, you can't go wrong with a trip to Pula!
10. Sibenik, Croatia
Sibenik is a historic city in Croatia with a beautiful harbor, medieval architecture, and a lively atmosphere. It is located on the Adriatic Sea and is a popular tourist destination.
The best time to visit Sibenik is from May to September when the weather is warm and the city is busy with tourists. There are plenty of things to do in Sibenik.
You can explore the city's historic center, visit the Cathedral of St. James, go for a swim in the Adriatic Sea, or enjoy the lively nightlife. There are also many day trips you can take from Sibenik, such as visiting Krka National Park or exploring the nearby islands.
The city is known for its seafood, so be sure to try dishes like squid ink risotto, grilled fish, and octopus salad. You can also enjoy traditional Croatian foods such as ćevapi (a type of sausage), sarma (stuffed cabbage leaves), and baklava (a dessert made with filo pastry, nuts, and honey).
If you are looking for a relaxed and beautiful city to visit on your next vacation, Sibenik is the perfect place for you!
Bosnia & Herzegovina
Among the other ex-Yugoslavia countries, Bosnia and Herzegovina had suffered the most significant number of ethnic cleansing during the desolvation of the federal country. The infamous Srebenica massacre killed more than 8,000 Muslims in the same town.
Nowadays, Bosnia and Herzegovina is a good spot to travel around the Balkans due to its central location, making it a great place to explore before crossing the border to its neighboring countries. On top of that, the country also offers some scenic greenery, combined with the rich culture and history that Bosnia has to offer.
So, what are the recommended spots to visit in Bosnia and Herzegovina?
11. Sarajevo, Bosnia & Herzegovina
A great place to visit in a former Yugoslavian country is Sarajevo in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Summer is the perfect time to visit as the weather is beautiful. You can enjoy sitting outside the cafes in the Old Town, sipping on Bosnian tea or coffee, and eating a sweet treat.
The city is dotted with natural water springs and legend has it that if you drink from the spring, then you will one day return to Sarajevo. It's a great walkable city packed full of history.
Exploring the abandoned bobsled track in Sarajevo is a popular thing to do. The track was used for the 1984 Winter Olympics but was partly destroyed in the Bosnian war that started in 1992. In 2018 the cable car was restored to the top of the Trebevic Mountain, making the bobsleigh track easier to reach. There are now many hiking trails and viewpoints, and the track is covered in colorful graffiti.
Back in the city, there are several different museums sharing the history of Sarajevo. Some interesting museums to visit are: The National Museum of Bosnia and Herzegovina, the Museum of Crimes Against Humanity and Genocide, the War Childhood Museum and the Sarajevo Tunnel museum.
Pansion River Hotel has rooms with balconies overlooking the Miljacka river and surrounding mountains. It's a lovely place to spend peaceful mornings and evenings.
12. Mostar, Bosnia & Herzegovina
Mostar is a historic and extremely diverse city in southern Bosnia and Herzegovina. Founded in 1452, it has been ruled by the Ottoman Empire, Yugoslavia, and Nazi Germany (to name a few!). Nowadays, the city remains a melting pot of ethnicities and cultures.
Another reason Mostar is worth visiting is that the city itself is set in a gorgeous location. Located on the banks of the Neretva River, the city's main attraction is Stari Most (Old Bridge). This 20-meter tall bridge connects the two sides of the city and is a marvel of Ottoman architecture. The views of the surrounding landscape from the bridge are absolutely beautiful.
Mostar also boasts some other interesting attractions, including the vibrant Old Town, Koski Mehmed Paša Mosque, and the Museum of War and Genocide Victims. The city makes a great base for day trips in the region as well. One of the most popular is Blagaj Tekija, a monastery built into the side of a cliff.
Any time of year is a good time to visit Mostar, but summer, in particular, is when the city comes to life. The weather is warm, the streetside markets hum with activity, and it's possible to catch one of the local boys diving off of the Stari Most.
13. Pocitelj, Bosnia & Herzegovina
One of the best hidden gems in the Balkans is the historic walled city of Pocitelj. Located about 30 minutes south of Mostar in Bosnia and Herzegovina, this UNESCO World Heritage Site is an open-air museum that showcases the magnificent architecture and history of southern Bosnia.
No one is entirely sure when Pocitelj was founded, but the earliest records trace back to 1444. The city has been ruled by the Hungarians, the Ottomans, and the Venetians. Thus, it features a unique combination of medieval and Islamic architecture, leading to a uniquely beautiful historic old town.
The main landmark in Pocitelj is the fortress, known as Kula Pocitelj. Set at the top of the hill, from the castle ruins, you have a gorgeous view of the city and the Neretva River Valley. There's also a prominent mosque with a minaret soaring into the air that stands out in the beautiful pictures you'll take from the castle.
Visiting Pocitelj is simple. It's free and it's right on the hillside along the main highway that leads to Mostar. The ancient city is small, so you can take in the main sights and sounds in less than an hour. 2-3 hours gives you more time to intimately explore the city streets and buildings. There are also a few restaurants to grab a bite of delicious Bosnian food and plenty of street vendors selling everything from pomegranate juice to handcrafted bronze silverware.
Pocitelj is incredible year-round and can be visited in any season. No matter when you visit or how much time you choose to stay, you'll be in awe of the beauty of this medieval city.
14. Kravice Waterfall, Bosnia & Herzegovina
Located one hour from Mostar and three hours from the capital of Sarajevo, Kravice Waterfall is a hidden gem in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Kravice often gets overlooked in favor of similar waterfalls in the Balkans, such as Krka and Plitvice in neighboring Croatia.
But while the crowds in Croatia have meant restrictions or even a complete ban on swimming in these waterfalls, Kravice still remains unrestricted. So if you want to experience swimming in beautiful pools and waterfalls, Kravice is the place to go.
The falls have a large car park and tickets to enter Kravice cost 20 KM or 10 euros.
Just a short walk downhill from the car park is the shoreline and beach area, which also has a handful of cafes and bars, so you can easily spend a day there enjoying the beach and swimming in the falls.
There are also boat trips available from the beach to take you up close to the falls if you don't fancy a swim!
The best time to visit is during the warmer summer months if you want to swim and enjoy a day on the beach. However, it can get busy during the summer, so visiting in September or early October is a great time to avoid the crowds but still experience warm water to swim in.
It is possible to visit Kravice on a day trip from Split or Dubrovnik in Croatia. Kravice is just 30 minutes from the Croatian border and 1.5 hours from Split or 2 hours from Dubrovnik. There are also several day tour options available from both cities if you don't have a car.
15. Jajce, Bosnia & Herzegovina
Jajce, a small country town in Bosnia & Herzegovina, is a wonderful, off-the-beaten-path destination in the former Yugoslavia. It's a must-visit location for travelers in the present-day Balkans and should be on every Bosnia & Herzegovina itinerary.
Jajce, pronounced “yai-tse“, was established as a town in the 14th century, and served for many years as the capital of the Kingdom of Bosnia.
Present-day Jajce sits at the intersection of the Pliva and Vrbas rivers, and is famous for the picturesque, 22-meter waterfalls that form at the base of the Pliva river where it intersects with the Vrbas.
A large platform at the base of the waterfalls, as well as a walking trail leading to the top of it, allow visitors to Jajce to admire the epic waterfall from all sides.
Jajce is also home to a historic Old Town district, which consists of an old fortress and a citadel. The strategic location of the fortress on the highest hill in town, was part of the reason why Jajce was the last town in Bosnia to fall to the Ottoman Empire in the early 1500s.
Today, within the falls of the fortress are a number of churches and mosques, which were built at various times throughout the long history of the town. Recent efforts to preserve the cultural heritage of Jajce have seen many old buildings around the Old Town restored. Exploring the citadel and fortress gives visitors incredible views over the small town, rivers, and the rolling hills surrounding Jajce.
16. Una National Park, Bosnia & Herzegovina
The natural beauty around the Una, Unac and Krka rivers was already well known in the former Yugoslavia region. The Una river with its turquoise and emerald green color is one of the most beautiful rivers in the Balkans. It is not for nothing that the Romans called it Una, or the One.
Nowadays it is part of Bosnia Herzegovina. Una national park is one of the newest and largest national parks in this new country. It was established in 2008 to protect the pristine nature of this area. The river and waterfalls are surrounded by lush forests and limestone cliffs home to animals like bears, wolves and lynx.
The most impressive waterfalls are Strbacki buk with its travertines and the 54 meter high Milancevi buk. Outdoor lovers will enjoy the hiking and kayaking opportunities in this area.
Una National Park also has a rich historic and cultural heritage as well. Being in the ex-Yugoslavia area, it was a very multicultural area with medieval fortifications, mosques and churches. The orthodox Rmanj monastery in Martin Brod and the Sultan Ahmed mosque in Kulen Vakuf both have a long history of being destroyed and rebuilt.
The park is only 35 kilometers from the popular Plitvice Park in Croatia. However, it receives only a fraction of its visitors despite the fact that it is equally beautiful if not more so.
Una National Park is best visited from Bihac. A town in the northwestern part of Bosnia Herzegovina that is easy to reach by bus from either Sarajevo or Zagreb.
The best time to visit are spring and autumn when temperatures are pleasant and the weather is good. Summer gets warm, but there are plenty of opportunities to cool down in the river.
Among the other ex-Yugoslavia countries, Serbia may not have the best reputation in the international public eye after their former president Slobodan Milosevic got arrested for war crimes at the International Court of Justice in the late 1990s. But it shouldn't stop you from visiting Serbia right now.
Apart from the turbulent histories that we're lucky to get to learn now to avoid them from happening again, Serbia also offers so much more. Despite being landlocked, Serbia has so many green lush sceneries that you can visit while visiting the country. Not to mention that it's also known for being the music festival capital in the Balkans, making it a favorite destination to visit during summertime.
So, here are some places to visit while you're in Serbia!
17. Belgrade, Serbia
It's hard to talk about ex-Yugoslavia destinations without including Belgrade on the list. Once the capital city of Yugoslavia, Belgrade had crashed and burned so many times, even long before the dissolution of the socialist federal republic.
Nowadays, Belgrade is most well-known for its nightlife and party scenes. Situated at the confluence of the Sava and Danube rivers, partying down the riverboats is something you shouldn't miss if you're a party-goer visiting the capital city of Serbia.
Even if you're not interested in partying or day-drinking by enjoying a sip of rakija in Belgrade, the city has so much more to offer, from the remarkable architecture of the classical buildings in the capital to taking a tour to the underground Kalemegdan Fortress that may interest any history junkie visiting Belgrade.
To highlight your trip to Belgrade, don't forget to stop by the Museum of Yugoslavia and visit the House of Flowers, where you can pay respect to the mausoleum of the former lifetime president of Yugoslavia, Josip Broz Tito.
18. Zemun, Serbia
Zemun Serbia is an eclectic, bohemian settlement that sits just across the Sava river from Belgrade. The architecture and the atmosphere here are completely different to that in Belgrade and other parts of Serbia, and traveling to Zemun almost feels as though you have traveled to another city entirely.
Centuries ago, Zemun was part of the Austria-Hungary Hapsburg empire while Serbia was part of the Ottoman Empire. The two civilizations had distinctly different cultures, and while Belgrade often feels dark and gothic, the cobbled streets of Zemun are filled with quaint pastel-colored houses and churches.
Part of the joy of visiting Zemun is found in simply taking the time to get lost among its old narrow streets. However, the main attraction here is the tower of Janos Hunyadi.
This Romanesque tower dates back to 1896 and resembles a fairytale turret. The views across Zemun and Belgrade from the top of the tower are second to none.
On the ground floor, there is a small photo gallery that showcases life in Serbia through the ages. Zemun is known for its exquisite seafood restaurants so when lunch time rolls around, be sure to check one of them out.
Šaran is widely regarded as being the best restaurant in town and their spicy fish soup is a local specialty. Sent Andrea and Malevilla are also good choices.
There is a distance of 14.5km between Zemun and Belgrade, and it is easy to get between the two places on foot or by bus/cab. Visit in the spring time when the cherry blossoms and flowers in Park Ušće are in full bloom.
19. Zlatibor, Serbia
The gem of Western Serbia, Zlatibor is not only popular for its mountain jewel at 1000-meter altitude, but also for its traditional Serbian cuisine to try out while enjoying the beautiful scenery of the mountain.
To satisfy your historical interest in this ex-Yugoslavia destination, make an advance booking at the legendary Hotel Zlatibor in Uzice. Launched during the Yugoslav era, the hotel structure showcases the country's achievements in architecture during the socialist period.
Suitable to visit all year round, Zlatibor offers something for everyone in every season. Enjoy the view of stunning meadows and clear lakes for the fall, spring, and summer. If you decide to visit Serbia in winter, it's also one of the most famous ski destinations in the country.
Don't miss the famous gold gondola in Zlatibor, where you can enjoy the longest panoramic lift in a 9-kilometer long route that connects Zlatibor with the ski center of Tornik. The journey takes around 25 minutes, and make sure to arrive before 4 PM as it's the closing time for the gold gondola in the area.
If you decide to explore more places around Zlatibor district, spare some time to visit Drvengrad and Sargan Eight in Mokra Gora.
By the end of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia in 2003, the country renamed itself into Serbia and Montenegro until Montenegro declared their independence in 2006.
Pretty well known for its scenic medieval villages and beautiful villages along the Adriatic coastline, Montenegro is particularly popular during summer. One of the smallest countries in Europe, the country only has around 650,000 populations which makes it suitable for those who want to go to less crowded destinations in the Balkans.
Despite that, there are many reasons why Montenegro is worth visiting if you're looking for some ideas for spots to visit in the former Yugoslavia region. From the deepest canyon at Tara River Canyon to the Bay of Kotor, Montenegro may have all the things you're looking for in a holiday destination.
20. Podgorica, Montenegro
Podgorica, the capital of Montenegro, is a gorgeous city packed with culture and history and surrounded by lush, rolling hills. It's easy to get to the city via flying, although prices tend to skew higher in summer, and the region has excellent transportation to get to other popular destinations like Split or Vienna.
However, once you enter the city, be sure to detour to cross Milenijum Most, the Millenium Bridge, to take some pictures of Podgorica's modern landmark.
To get a taste of the city's exciting past, head to Stara Varos (aka Old Town), which was built under the Ottoman empire in the 15th century.
A fair number of buildings were destroyed in WWII bombings, but there are still two beautiful, original Turkish structures: the Starodoganjska Mosque and Osmanagić Mosque. The clock tower, which was originally used to signal prayer times, was renovated in 2005.
Podgorica's Center of Contemporary Art is another must-see with rotating exhibitions from local artists as well as permanent displays for European, Latin American, Asian and African art. Plus, the building itself is a work of art– formerly the winter house of King Nikola Petrović in Kruševac, the impressive mansion sits in the middle of a beautifully manicured garden.
But Podgorica's most unique feature is the largest vineyard in a single complex in Europe, Plantaze. Founded in 1963, the grounds sprawl across 5,700 acres and feature 28 different varieties of grapes. The most popular wine is easily the Vranac, a deep, rich dark red wine. Get a tour of the wine cellar, a brief history of the vineyard, and have a sommelier-led tasting to round off the trip.
21. Durmitor National Park, Montenegro
Montenegro is one of the most perfect countries to visit if you're in need of some nature adventure. Montenegro National Parks are stunning and lie largely off the beaten path. Durmitor mountain range belongs to one of such gorgeous – even UNESCO-listed, yet unknown, parks.
The massif of Durmitor was created during Ice Age and thus, you're going to be wowed by unique rocks, canyons, glacial lakes, and ice caves.
Bobotov Kuk is the highest peak in Durmitor with its 2,523 meters. You can plan a day hike to it and test your fitness level when scaling the mountain, as well as your possible fear of heights when climbing the very top hanging onto steel ropes. Still, that hike is doable for anybody who's fit and the views from the top are just the sweetest reward.
Apart from Bobotov Kuk, you can also climb Crvena Greda peak (2,164 m). Or take it easy and go for a hike with less elevation around Durmitor's Lakes.
Durmitor also features a long canyon with the river Tara at its bottom. It's the world's second deepest canyon after the Grand Canyon in the US!
You can go white-water rafting on it, or at least drive to the Đurđevića Tara Bridge to see the canyon from a good viewpoint. Around this unique metal bridge, there are also thrilling ziplines from one side of the canyon to the other.
Durmitor is located in the Northwest of Montenegro near the town of Žabljak. When planning hikes in Durmitor, it's advisable to use Žabljak as your base. There are many different accommodation options and even campsites.
The best time of year to visit Durmitor National Park is in summer. Go anytime from June to September and enjoy it to the fullest!
22. Lake Skadar, Montenegro
Montenegro is an ideal destination in Europe. There are small charming medieval towns, lovely beaches, comfortable hotels and restaurants offering delicious food. Its' natural beauty is staggering. Thankfully, you are able to enjoy it through many national parks, including Lake Skadar National Park.
Lake Skadar is 65 km drive from Kotor and is shared by Montenegro and Albania, although most of it belongs to Montenegro. It is the largest lake in Southern Europe and includes the largest bird reserve in Europe.
You can easily take a day trip from Kotor or Budva and spend the day exploring. One of the best things to do is to take a private one-hour cruise on the Lake. During the cruise, you glide through thousands of lily pads next to uninhabited islands.
On your visit, you are welcome to swim, hike, bike and rent other kinds of boats, like canoes and kayaks, and explore the National Park. It is absolutely beautiful and serene. If you are interested in history, some of the islands have ruins of former monasteries, churches, old villages, and fortresses to discover.
There are small hotels, Airbnbs and restaurants in the town of Virapazar, next to the Lake.
The best time to visit Lake Skadar National Park is in the late spring, summer and early fall. Summer will be busier than spring and fall, but the weather will be perfect for enjoying the park.
23. Perast, Montenegro
Perast is a very tiny, but picturesque town on the edge of Kotor Bay, Montenegro. It's worth mentioning that it's one of the best-preserved old towns on the Adriatic coast and it offers amazing views of the Bay.
The best time to visit if you want to swim is during the summer, but May is also a great choice, mainly for people interested in sightseeing.
Many opt to see Kotor and Perast as a day trip from Dubrovnik, Croatia and while you can certainly do this, it's also a good idea to spend a few nights here, especially if you are looking for a quieter place where you can relax and enjoy some incredible vistas.
While in Perast, make sure to take a short boat trip to Our Lady of the Rocks island where you'll find a small church and a museum. It is the only man-made island in the Adriatic. You should also climb the Bell tower for a bird's eye view of the town and its surroundings, but the best thing you can do is to stroll along the waterfront.
The easiest way to travel to Perast is by car and you'll find parking lots on either end of the town, where you can leave it.
Macedonia was the region in the south-central Balkans that is currently split into several regions in the peninsula, including Greece in the north-central, Bulgaria in the southwest and the latter is the region that used to be a part of Yugoslavia: the modern Republic of North Macedonia.
With its history can be traced back as far as the ancient Greek, North Macedonia had a long history in the recent era with it being under the Ottoman until after the World War II when it became the constituent republic within Yugoslavia.
The Republic of North Macedonia eventually declared its independence upon the collapse of Yugoslavia in 1991. One of the least visited countries by tourist in the Balkans, North Macedonia offers different kinds of adventures from nature, ancient Roman ruins, to fine dining and delicious wine!
24. Skopje, North Macedonia
Skopje, “the capital of kitsch”, is the capital of the Republic of North Macedonia. It's a funny little place many visitors pass through on their way to the mountains or Lake Ohrid, Europe's oldest lake. But there is plenty to see in this city, and it's well worth spending a night or two here.
Explore the Old Town and Bazaar. The bazaar dates back to the 12th century and is one of the oldest bazaars in the Balkans. Exploring the old streets is fascinating – the smells and sights are a feast for the eyes.
Then cross the Stone Bridge that connects the Old Town with Macedonia Square. Admire the impressive Baroque and beautiful neo-classical buildings that you see, but they are not as old as you think. They were built to make Skopje more attractive for tourists in a controversial project called “Skopje 2014”.
And there are statues everywhere – colossal statues of Alexander the Great. You won't miss the one in Macedonia Square; it's 22 meters tall!
Be sure to visit the Memorial House of Mother Teresa, probably the most famous person from Skopje. And also the old fortress that overlooks the city.
For dining, head to Debar Maalo considered the Bohemian district of Skopje. You'll find tree-lined streets and numerous trendy cafes and restaurants here. It's just a short walk from the Old Bazaar's craziness and the new town's kitsch – a totally different atmosphere.
The best time to visit Skopje is in the spring or autumn months. It can be freezing in the winter months and far too hot to explore during the summer.
25. Heraclea Lyncestis, North Macedonia
Not only Mother Teresa, Macedonia is also well known as the region where Alexander the Great was born. And for that, one of the must-visit spots when you stop by North Macedonia is to visit the ancient ruins of Greek city in Macedon, Heraclea Lyncestis.
Situated around 2 km south of Bitola, the economic and industrial center of North Macedonia, the ancient ruin of Heraclea is currently one of the most-visited attractions in the former Yugoslavia country.
Narrating the history of Hellenistic, Roman, and early Christian era, just like Ephesus in Turkiye, the Roman amphitheater in the ancient city has become a prominent spot to visit in Heraclea. You will also be able to see monuments, town walls, and ancient baths.
While summer is probably the peak season to visit Heraclea, the best time to visit the site is during the fall, around September to November, as the weather won't be too hot to stroll around the ancient city, and it's relatively less crowded with tourists during that time of the year too.
The last country to gain their independence from Serbia in 2008, Kosovo is still yet to be internationally recognized as a sovereign state. Serbia strongly denies the declaration of Kosovo's independence.
You should be aware of this situation, especially if you're a traveler planning to enter Serbia from Kosovo, as the immigration stamp from Kosovo for international passports may result in the rejection to enter Serbian border.
Despite all the disputes regarding Kosovo, it doesn't mean that the youngest country in Europe is not worth your visit. So, what are the best places to visit in Kosovo?
26. Pristina, Kosovo
As Kosovo's largest and capital city, and the newest European capital city, Pristina is becoming a popular tourist destination. It's a very affordable city to visit, full of history and culture and there's plenty to do, yet it's not too touristy yet. In fact, there aren't too many tourist attractions; the main reason to visit Pristina is to soak up the culture and charm that the city is known for.
While Pristina doesn't have a traditional historic center, it does have a small Old Town that's worth visiting. Here you'll find many of the important mosques and the Ethnographic Museum, which is definitely worth a visit.
Another sight to see in Pristina is the Newborn Monument, which was built to commemorate the independence of Kosovo. The National Library of Kosovo is also worth a visit. It's a very interesting and unique-looking building, with 99 domes and metal netting covering the entire building. It's worth seeing, even if just from the outside.
Pristina is also home to several museums, including the Kosovo Museum and the Ethnographic Museum, which are definitely worth a visit!
But one of the biggest things that Pristina is known for, is their coffee culture. Cafes are found on every street, prices start at 1 euro for a coffee and the coffee is excellent!
Pristina is a great place to visit for a variety of reasons. It's affordable, it has a lot to offer in terms of history and culture, and there are plenty of things to do. Summer is a great time to visit, as the weather is best but honestly, any time of year is great to visit this charming city!
27. Prizren, Kosovo
While most tourists visit the capital city Pristina, we also recommend visiting the second-largest city in Kosovo: Prizren.
It is an old, historic city with influence from Albanians, Serbians, Bosnians, Turks and Romanies. Many cultural monuments were destroyed during the Kosovo war between 1998 and 1999. One of the most important sights in Prizren is the old stone bridge.
The river Bistrica flows under the old bridge, which connects old parts of the city of Prizren. Almost next to the old stone bridge, you find the Sinan Pasha Mosque, an Ottoman mosque in the old town built in 1615. Both are a favorite photo motif during a visit to the city.
Another highlight is the old fortress of Prizren above the city. The walk up there is a bit steep but totally worth it! You will get an amazing view of the old town and the beautiful landscape around.
The city itself is not big. You will be able to see these sights in one day. There are hip cafes and traditional restaurants in the center of the town.
The best time to visit Prizren is between May and October, but it can get a bit hot in high summer. Prizren is well connected by buses to Pristina, Kosovo, Skopje in North Macedonia, and Sofia in Bulgaria.
Summary: Traveling to Ex-Yugoslavia Destinations in the Balkans
If you're a slow traveler who's also a history buff, you can add traveling around the Balkans and visit some of the must-visit ex-Yugoslavia destinations to immerse in their diverse culture with uniqueness in each country.
Traveling around the Balkans is relatively easy, as there are a lot of international bus connections with various routes across Europe.
However, it's also important to be mindful of the situation since Kosovo is currently still under the category of a self-declared independent country, so always make sure to enter Kosovo from Serbia first instead of the other way around so you can avoid any troubles with immigration on your trip.
Got any additional resources on the best place to visit in ex-Yugoslavia countries? Share in the comment below, and cheerio!
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Marya The BeauTraveler
I am the founder and main editor at The BeauTraveler. I spent 4 years working in the aviation industry but ironically got to travel more right after quitting the industry in 2015. Born and raised in Indonesia, I started working remotely in 2017, and while I stay at home most of the time, I also regularly spend 2-3 months living a semi-digital nomad life elsewhere every year.